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City Council supports ordinance imposing restrictions on state law allowing additional housing units

California State Capitol. Photo by flickr user daveynin licensed under CC BY 2.0.


Alhambra , CA United States

The Alhambra City Council approved a first reading of an updated ordinance allowing homeowners to build an additional unit on their land, explaining that they had to do so in order to comply with new state law.

Without its own ordinance, Alhambra would have to follow two new state laws that loosened restrictions on the size of these units, the size of the lots that they were built on and other considerations. “The state comes up and says, ‘Hey, you lost control, let us tell you what to do,'” said Mayor Stephen Sham. The City came up with this law to prevent that.

The California state legislature passed these laws last year in order to address the state’s housing crisis. Cities with incompatible rules or none at all had to start using the state law this year, regardless of how it affected neighborhood characteristics. The local ordinance is an effort to comply while preserving Alhambra’s character.

Resident Lola Armendariz was concerned that residents weren’t adequately notified that this law was being considered, and that the City wouldn’t have to notify them if their neighbors built an additional unit on their property. Councilmember Jeff Maloney predicted that state requirements would evolve as different cities responded to this mandate.

“I think there will be a period here of some time where we see this topic evolving, and I think staff will be on top of that,” he said.

Alhambra’s ordinance would require a maximum unit size of either 50 percent of the main dwelling or 1200 square feet, whichever is smaller. A minimum size of 400 square feet would also be required and 6,500 square feet lot size for the additional unit. The maximum height of the additional unit would be one story, and could not be taller than the main unit. The ordinance also specified only one additional unit per lot and an additional parking space per addtional bedroom.

City Planner Paul Lam said that California gave cities like Alhambra some discretion to impose these requirements in addition to the state law. Additional proposed requirements for these “accessory dwelling units” are outlined in the Nov. 13 City Council agenda.

Armendariz was also concerned about how the City would enforce a provision not allowing residents to rent additional units for less than 30 days. City Attorney Joseph Montes said that Code Enforcement would investigate based on residents’ complaints. Sham also directed staff to brainstorm ways to improve outreach, in response to Almendariz’s concern that residents didn’t know about this ordinance.

The first reading of this ordinance passed unanimously. The City Council will take up final approval at their next meeting.

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